Are people actually as messed up as their families suggest, are family members privy to more of our dark side and need explanations for what they see? Maybe people really are all mentally ill… or maybe is there something else going on here?
As a family therapist, I hear stories of so many family members describing their family member with some sort of mental illness ranging from depression and anxiety disorders to, my favourite, narcissism. While I can see how the vanity of contemporary western culture does appear neurotic, it isn’t exactly a disorder and certainly not a serially dangerous personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder.
When I think about why we diagnose our family members so willingly, I wonder about two potential reasons. The first is we know them best, know them at their absolute worst, and are the most qualified to make such claims, despite our training or clinical experience – maybe all of these people really do have the mental illness their families will tell you they do! The second explanation is that having a mental illness is somehow an excuse for the behaviours which piss us off the most. You can make an exception for your brothers behaviour if he has depression, or your father who is constantly angry, or your sister who cant stop selfying her… self?
Having some sort of mental health issue gives us permission to love the people who hurt us the most. I wonder if maybe the people who we pathologies and judge, are really the people who are hurting us the hardest?